Calamari, or squid may seem intimidating to cook at home, but the truth is, you can prepare this amazing sea creature easily. And doing so is guaranteed to impress your dinner guests. This article will describe in detail how to prepare the best calamari in the pan on the stove top to make it stand out!
I personally found that preparing the calamari at home is much easier than I thought. It’s no different then knowing how to cook shrimp! And once I was brave enough to cook it for the first time, it was a breeze from there on. Whether I am roasting, grilling, boiling, or pan frying, I love having such an exotic homemade seafood dish at the comfort of my own home! Not to mention this is a great way to impress my family and friends.
How to buy the calamari
When I bought my squid, it came frozen. And was I shocked when I realized how little of this sea creature was actually there once I defrosted it! Therefore keep in mind that when buying calamari is more is better. Not only because frozen squid can mislead you in terms of how much you are actually getting, but also because it is soft-bodied, and it will reduce in size during the cooking process.
I do recommend buying frozen calamari over the fresh ones. Why? Frozen calamari are mostly flash frozen at sea for optimal freshness, which you won’t get with the fresh squid. And I personally wouldn’t eat fresh calamari unless I caught it myself in the Mediterranean Sea. Therefore, unless I buy it frozen, I would not know how long its been dead, or defrosted. Or, how much histamine it accumulated in the meantime. That’s why go for the frozen!
Where do you buy calamari?
Usually you will come across frozen calamari in the store or online. So far I have seen only frozen kind in my local fish store. I also like to buy frozen squid online at Vital Choice. They don’t always carry it among their seafood choices, but when they do – it comes super fresh and conveniently packaged in 1 lb. bags.
If you live in NYC, many of the markets in Chinatown and Flushing would sell fresh calamari; having said that, I have always been able to purchase it in fish stores that are in Italian neighborhoods.
How to prepare calamari
If you bought it frozen, chances are that your calamari is already cut up, and there is nothing you will need to do. If not, simply remove each tentacle from the body by cutting it off at the base while the calamari lies flat on the cutting board. Use a sharp chef’s knife or kitchen shears to do that.
How to defrost your squid
The good news is that most frozen squid already comes pre cut. In that case I usually use my microwave. First I put calamari on a microwave safe plate or dish. Then I use “defrost” function for 4 minutes.
Alternatively, you can use the oven method! How do we do it? First things first, I turn my oven on at 350 F. and “defrost” my calamari in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
Or, you can thaw your calamari for at least 8 hours in the refrigerator, ensuring that it’s totally defrosted before proceeding.
This is what my calamari looked like after I defrosted in in the hot oven for 15 minutes:
Can you eat calamari raw?
Well, only if you enjoy tough and chewy texture! Raw calamari is rarely eaten even in Japan where sashimi is available! Instead, they slightly boil it.
How long do you boil the squid?
If you are up to boiling your squid, simply add it to the pot and cover. Gently boil for about 30-45 minutes, testing the texture with a fork every 15 minutes until it has become fully tender and ready to serve.
I love to use this method as a simple first step to tenderize my calamari before finishing it in a pan or on the grill. Do not discard the leftover liquid! Instead use it as a seafood stock!
How to grill it
A delicious way to prepare calamari is to throw it on the grill. But before you take it to the charcoals, it’s important to pre-cook your calamari because adding it straight to the grill as-is will result in tough, dry meat.
- I always boil it first, then let it cool down to room temperature and quickly grill it.
- As mentioned above, boil it for 30 to 45 minutes.
- To make it super delicious, coat boiled calamari in olive oil and season with salt and pepper before adding it to a high-temperature grill.
- I also like to use lemon juice, dried oregano, Italian seasoning, fresh parsley and garlic.
- Cook for 4-5 minutes on a covered grill, flipping once.
Poaching the calamari
Poaching simply means simmering it with lots of other good stuff!
- Start by boiling water (enough to cover the octopus) and a variety of flavorful additions like lemons, onions, bay leaves, salt and pepper.
- You can also add carrots, garlic, ginger, thyme and rosemary.
- I often add wine, maybe 1/2 cup or 1 cup to the liquid as well to bring out additional flavor.
- Simmer for about 45 to 90 minutes.
How to sauté your calamari
Sautéed Chili Calamari is my favorite method for cooking squid. What I usually do is add it frozen into the oven for 15 minutes at 350 F. and once it’s nice and soft, pan-fry your pre-cooked calamari briefly in a hot skillet for some delicious caramelization on the outside.
Make sure you have olive oil in your pan and then add sliced onion and garlic for extra flavor. I like to add red bell pepper as well paprika and a generous amount of cayenne pepper to give it an extra boost. Season with salt and pepper right in the pan and cook your tentacles to pan for about 5 minutes per side, for a perfect finish.
More delicious seafood recipes
Sautéed Chili Calamari
- 2 lb. calamari frozen
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 1/2 red bell pepper chopped
- 1/2 yellow bell pepper chopped
- salt and pepper
- Defrost calamari in the microwaive by using "defrost" function for 4 minutes. I used microwave safe plate.
- Alternative defrostin method if not a fan of a microwave: Preheat oven to 350 F. Once the oven is hot, add frozen calamari to the oven safe skillet (no oil necessary). Reheat for 10 to 15 minutes until juices are released. Remove from the oven.
- Meanwhile add the chopped onion and garlic and cook until transparent for about 5 minutes. Add bell peppers, paprika and cayenne and cook, stirring, until, about 5 more minutes. Carefully add the white wine and deglaze.
- Now add your precooked calamari to the pan and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook over moderately high heat until browned, about 5-6 minutes. Flip the calamari and cook for 5 minutes longer.
- Serve hot.
- Cooked calamari can store in the fridge for up to 3 days.